Student journalist sacked at school assembly over column

UTAH — A high school student was tackled at a schoolpep rally in reaction to his article published in the school’s student newspaperearlier this month.Now the student wants the principal to address thesituation with the student body, but the superintendent has said no plans to doso are in the works.In his column, Jeremy Brinkerhoff, a senior at BearRiver High School in Tremonton, addressed stereotypes and cliques that exist atschool. Brinkerhoff, who is a member of the marching band, rhetorically quipped,”what is the difference between the football team and the band? Nothing, theyboth play bad.” Brinkerhoff insists he was being sarcastic but his joke waswidely interpreted by football players, coaches, students and the principal asan insult to the football team.The article, which Brinkerhoff saidencouraged students to respect one another, caused tension at the school. Upset studentscame to Brinkerhoff and the newspaper staff for an explanation, saidHeidi Jensen, the adviser to The Searchlight.One assistantfootball coach has said he attempted to diffuse the situation by “having somefun with the columnist.” The coach, Matthew Hyde, invited Brinkerhoff toparticipate in a skit during a recent pep rally for the footballteam.”Coach Hyde asked me to show up, but he never told me what is wasabout,” Brinkerhoff said.In front of 1,000 students and teachers,coaches and the principal, Hyde called Brinkerhoff out onto the basketballcourt and handed him a football. According to Brinkerhoff, Hyde told him to runthrough two football players who were acting as the defense. In a Salt LakeTribune article, Hyde said he meant for the students to gently takeBrinkerhoff down.Brinkerhoff was knocked to the floor and sustained abruised wrist and a scrape on his arm, Jensen said. “A few footballplayers jumped up and down, but most of the students in the stands wereshocked,” Brinkerhoff said.Jensen said Hyde knew immediately he had madea mistake in orchestrating the skit and wrote a letter of apology toBrinkerhoff. He later offered to resign, but the principal, Dale Thomas, refusedit, she said.Box Elder District Superintendent Martell Menlove said thepossibility exists for students to misinterpret the article, but he thinkshaving Brinkerhoff tackled was inappropriate. Since the pep rally,Brinkerhoff has said publicly in several newspapers he would like Thomas toaddress the student body about what occurred at the pep rally.”Students[told me] ‘you take what you get.’ The administration ought to do something toteach students it is unacceptable behavior. The principal is condoning [a]criminal act on campus,” he said.Thomas has not returned several phonecalls requesting his comment.Menlove said neither the district nor theschool has planned any discussion with students. “We are worried about theimpact on the students,” he said and would not elaborate.Jensen said sheis worried about Brinkerhoff’s safety because some students have remained upset.The second-year adviser has rewritten the editorial policy forSearchlight to specify that articles must be turned into her a weekbefore production and should not touch on controversial topics.”[We]report news to students, promote stuff going on at school. We already have gangsand drugs at school, why promote more bad news?” Jensen said.An articleBrinkerhoff submitted to Searchlight in response to the pep rally wasdenied, Jensen said, because it was “angry.” In the column Brinkerhoff clarifiedwhat he meant in his stereotype story, and he further criticized Hyde andThomas. In its place, Searchlight published a tamer articleBrinkerhoff prepared about respect that included a shorter explanation of hisprevious article.Brinkerhoff said he will not press charges or file a lawsuit.